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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

Destination Manitoba:

Blessing or a curse?

by Michael Scott

If you have been following the local news recently you would be struck by several recurrent stories. There are the budget cuts announced by the Palliser government on health care, education, and, within the context of immigration, English Adult Language learning. Want more bad news? Then, expect more cuts and also the major overhaul of the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) set for April 2017. Immigration to Manitoba will become more restricted and arrivals will decrease. This “bad” news, for many, is counterbalanced by news of the asylum seekers leaving the United States and coming to Canada. There is something happening, and to quote President Trump, “we have to figure out what the (heck) is going on.” OK, I changed one word but then again, respectfully; Donald Trump should change a lot of his language.

We should all be aware of the protests against the impending MPNP changes headed by MLA and interim NDP party leader Flor Marcelino and the “Save MPNP Coalition: strength in diversity” along with Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux. It is refreshing to see the opposition parties united in their support for MPNP “status quo.” If it isn’t broken, why fix it? Premier Pallister’s proposed changes, along with his cuts in vital health, education and support services to newcomers can and should be contested in the public forum. His proposed revamped nomination program, based primarily on job offers and OFWs, is an attempt to use an out-dated recruitment model and present it as reform or renewal. No, history has shown us that this narrow approach to immigration selection and recruitment, with an over reliance on addressing immediate needs, is a quick fix with limited value. I thought the Premier would have learned the lesson of being anti-immigrant from the former Harper government but apparently not so. The province needs immigration numbers to fuel the economy. Newcomers are a net gain, not a net loss, for the provincial economy. That said, I shall leave the politics to our trusted MLAs who are doing a good job to enlist support for their opposition to proposed changes in MPNP and cuts to services.

At the same time that teachers, nurses, students, patients and families are becoming anxious about proposed cuts and changes in Manitoba, we also have the specter of asylum seekers leaving the United States in record numbers and coming to Canada for safety, security and a better future. The United States, under President Trump, has become a less welcoming and harsher place to be. If you are a TNT (“tago nang tago”) or an asylum seeker, your anxiety levels are rising along with the possibility of enforcement. There should be no surprise that a self-engrossed billionaire is more concerned about taking care of himself. It would appear that interest in self only is becoming the defining feature of the country on our southern border. Should we consider building a wall or, as some clerical leaders suggest, should we keep the bridges open.

Did you know that within the last few days, in the midst of a record blizzard with freezing temperatures and blinding snow, around 21 asylum seekers entered Manitoba? Yes, they see our province as a safe haven from the storm that is Trump’s America. They put their very lives at risk to get out. The response from Canada is reassuring. Rather than doubling the police at the border to arrest and kick them out, there were several RCMP cars waiting to pick up the asylum seekers and take them to shelter from the cold and to places where they could submit refugee claims. The contrast between the two countries could not be more profound.

Canada is not the United States and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and to a lesser degree Premier Brian Pallister, are not President Donald Trump. However, we must guard against becoming more like our southern neighbours. In the words of former President Barrack Obama, “that is not who we are.” All major religions and the golden rule teach us: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Let’s build bridges not walls. Let Manitoba remain a welcoming place for all immigrants, refugees as well as skilled workers.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: mscott.ici@gmail.com.

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